In John Sexton’s passionate book about the game of baseball, “Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game” (Gotham/Penguin, 2013), he describes the mysticism of the game in perfectly accessible terms: “Baseball, as it turns out, can help us develop the capacity to see through to another, sacred space. Indeed, the more we come to appreciate the sport’s intricacies and evocative power, the clearer it is that it shares much with what we traditionally have called religion.” Sexton describes the mystical experience of baseball as something overwhelming, almost “ineffable,” indescribable. In “42,” filmmaker Brian Helgeland tells the stories of two men of faith whose character and choices transformed lives, refocused visions, and instilled prayer in baseball. Whether or not these men felt the same as Sexton and others about playing baseball is not clear. But what is evident, as Michael G. Reel, an African-American news editor, told me after the recent “42” press day, “This film is the story of two men who did not allow history to pass them by.”The inspiring storyAfter World War II, Brooklyn Dodgers president and general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) is looking for a way to sign an African American to the team, a risky move that few understood. Why risky? Because black players in those years did not play with whites, especially in games in the South. Rickey (who pioneered the modern minor league farm system) explains to his assistant Harold (T.R. Knight) that he’s adding a black player because it will increase ticket sales and because more very talented black players who love the game are coming.Rickey identifies Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a graduate of Pasadena’s Muir High School who lettered in every sport at UCLA and is already playing in the Negro League. Harold perceives trouble, however, because Jackie seems to have a temper and had been court-martialed by the Army, albeit on trumped-up charges of misbehavior (he later received an honorable discharge). “Besides that,” Rickey tells Harold as if to dismiss any problem, “I am a Methodist, Robinson’s a Methodist, God’s a Methodist….” If only it were to be so easy.At their historic meeting, Rickey tests Jackie’s resolve and asks what he will do when fans and players torment him. “I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back,” says Rickey. “Your enemy will be out in force, and you cannot meet him on his own low ground.” Robinson replies, “You give me a uniform, you give me a number on my back, and I’ll give you the guts.” Later Jackie says, “God built me to last.” Rickey also tells him that if the others insult him and he insults them back, the only thing people will remember is what he says. “Be as our Savior and turn the other cheek.”Jackie, in turn, presses for a reason why the famous Branch Rickey wants to hire him. The aging executive always responds that it is about money, until the end of the film when he reveals the truth.Jackie calls his fiancé Rachel Isum (Nicole Beharie) in Pasadena to set the wedding date before the season begins. After their marriage, and as an exception, she travels with him to spring training. An airline agent in one southern city cancels their tickets when she sees Rachel, who was not raised in the segregated Jim Crow South, use a ladies room marked “whites only.” The young couple takes the bus.Jackie is signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers despite the fact that some team members oppose him and sign a petition to exclude the black player. Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) does not sign and welcomes Jackie. But opposing teams are worse than the Dodgers. Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) of the Philadelphia Phillies taunts Jackie when he is at bat, heckling and using racial slurs to intimidate the new player. Just before the Dodgers set out for Cincinnati, Pee Wee Reese approaches Rickey with a death threat he received. Rickey pulls out three files of angry letters from people who hate what he has done in signing a Negro player and tells Reese that he, too, is concerned and so is the FBI. At that game in Cincinnati, Reese puts his arm around Jackie’s shoulders for all to see in a show of solidarity and sportsmanship.The whole team is tested when team manager Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni), who doesn’t care about a man’s skin color, is suspended for a year from baseball when the national Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) threatens to boycott baseball because of the carousing Durocher’s rather public love affairs.In his career Jackie Robinson proved himself a hero. He played great baseball, and his base-stealing provides some of the most exciting sequences in the film. Yet his true strength was his character. In one deeply moving scene, when he can take no more of Chapman’s provocations, he walks off the field and almost has a breakdown in the tunnel. Rickey, a mentor and a hero, too, comes to find Jackie, and together, they return to the game. Elected to Baseball’s Hall of fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility, Robinson died in 1972, 25 years after making history. A quarter century later, his number, “42” was retired and no major league ball player has worn the number since (except for the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, who wore 42 before 1997). In 2004 “Jackie Robinson Day” was established and each year on April 15, every major league player wears the number “42” for a day.Rachel’s suggestionsI cannot tell you how many times I was genuinely moved by “42” — certainly the best film of 2013 so far. At the press day for the film, director/writer Helgeland (“A Knight’s Tale,” “Mystic River”), described his meeting with Rachel Robinson, now 90, who consulted on the script. She had many suggestions and insights into the way her husband spoke and acted — and how her own character was portrayed. The script, for example, had Rachel sitting next to black reporter, Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), who explains to her that a “balk” is an illegal action by a pitcher. “In what universe,” the real Rachel asked Helgeland, “don’t I know what a ‘balk’ is?” Helgeland changed the script so Smith explained a balk to someone else. Chadwick Boseman, who plays Jackie with conviction and confidence (and learned Jackie’s unique batting style), said he met with Rachel Robinson at her office at the Jackie Robinson Foundation. “She was part of the entire process,” he said. “I wanted to meet her because the idea of playing Jackie was daunting. “Her presence, and her spirit and essence is like a puzzle and he is still part of it. ‘Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone’ — I think of this Scripture when I think of them. I can see what type of man could stand beside her. “She sat me down and sat right beside me and had a heart-to-heart. She wanted to know who I was. There was something about this intimacy that let me get a sense of him as well. She told me about some physical things, hand movements, his feet, being pigeon-toed, how disciplined he was, how adamant about not drinking, how opinionated he was, what she loved about him and hated about him; I got a sense about who he was from the conversation and the books she told me to read. I asked about their relationship because he had a teammate in her. “I didn't know how to start (preparing for the role) until I talked to her. His spirit is still present in her. I felt the edges of him when I met with her; I could see the kind of man who could stand beside her.” A treasured roleHarrison Ford plays Branch Rickey at about age 65; he is hardly recognizable in the film, and he wanted it that way. He joked that he was pleased to be asked “to play a younger man, something that may not happen much anymore.” He plays Rickey, Jackie’s Christian mentor, with wry grit and intelligence (I thought Ford was terrific). A reporter at the press conference asked what this role meant to him and his career. He kind of grinned and said, “I was an overnight success,” and everyone laughed. Then Ford continued, quietly, “The only ambition I ever had going into committing to want to be an actor, to live my life….” He didn’t finish his thought because he choked up. We were all silent and he just waved his hand, asking for the next question. It was very strong, moving moment.The current-day Dodgers — whose franchise moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958 (an act of betrayal from which “Road to God” author Sexton and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who writes the introduction for Sexton’s book, have never recovered) — have seen the film and like it very much. David Iden, a current Dodgers’ minor league player and graduate of Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks, “was one of our coaches the entire time,” Boseman said, “from day one, whenever we played baseball. The Dodgers were part of the process and I hope they will continue to be.” “42” has a life rhythm to it with many heartfelt moments, mostly marked by courage and a few by cowardice. Parents will want to talk about issues of humanity, race, good sportsmanship and what it means to have faith and a good, upright character, with their children. The only ideas that take a hit in “42” are racism, prejudice and bigotry.Nostalgia and transcendenceI don't know why my love for baseball lingers. Even with Sexton’s profound theologizing about it being a mystical experience, sometimes the games seem to drag on in this modern era of television advertising. I even took a book once to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park because I knew there could be long minutes between pitches. I recently sold my mint condition ticket stubs to a 1965 St. Louis Cardinals game to a deacon in Colorado. Then I think back to those hot, dry, dog days of summer with my grandmother as she watched her favorite team, the Dodgers, and nostalgia takes over. I grew up listening to Pee Wee Reese announce the games on TV that my grandmother loved to watch on lazy Sunday afternoons in that old house in east San Diego. I would have those days again. Yes, baseball may be transcendent and lead us to the holy. But it does one thing for sure: it makes us more human and part of a great community, if we can afford to go. Daughter of St. Paul Sister Rose Pacatte is director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City. Her film reviews and essays may be found at{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0412/42movie/{/gallery}